Dread Swamp of the Banshee

By Alan Chamberlain, Mark Taormino, Joe Pearce
Dark Wizard Games
Levels 4-8 [<---- Not in the fucking product description!]

Downstream from the village of Silt is a great marsh created by a massive flood long ago. Many treasures were lost and now lay buried in the ruins of these cursed and water soaked lands. There are rumors that smugglers and criminals hide their felonious activities and great wealth here, but there is more to fear in the mist than the designs of men. Something sinister lurks in the darkness of the bogs. Find your courage, sharpen your blade, and trust no one and you may just survive the Dread Swamp of the Banshee.

This 48 page adventure details around 23 locales, mostly little islands in a swamp, along five or so lair dungeons on a few of the islands, mostly hideouts for bandits. It tries to present a dynamic environment, at least conceptually. Oh, also, around half the text on the 48 pages is read-aloud. I’m not exaggerating by a whole bunch.

[Sung to the tune of He’s a jolly good fellow.]

My lifes a living heeelll

My lifes a living heeeellll

My lifes a living heeeellll

Oh, my lifes a living hell.

So, little town on the edge of the swamp. Swamp is full of monsters. There’s a banshee in it. There’s a lady in a house. There are some hillbillies living in it. There’s some smugglers in it. I don’t know, a few other things also. You get the sense that the designer is TRYING to create a kind of dynamic environment, where there are several situations going on in the swamp and then the party gets mixed up in it. This would be something I can get behind; I think that kind of setup generally creates REALLy good adventures. I think these sorts of wilderness areas or little sandboxy places thrive on a lot going on. 

But that’s not what’s going on here.

Instead you get them all living in isolation to each other, even though their islands are, like, 500 feet away from each other. What’s that about? They pretty much all just stay in one place and their interactions are limited to the DM being told that “maybe the hillbillies follow the party and harass them or take advantage of them.” This is disappointing.

And, half the pages seem like read-aloud. Sometimes you’ll get almost a full page of read-aloud. And then the DM text is almost always then minimally keyed, maybe with some tactics. There’s really not much interactivity at all beyond just going from island to island to stab things. There are attempts to drop in treasure maps and so on to other islands in the swampy area, but you can just row your boat to the landing/dock on each island and have at thee, in a systematic way. There’s nothing to the exploration, it’s not engaging at all. What do you expect from a swamp tree miles wide with 23 large islands 500 feet from each other?

Let’s see … the bouncers in the bar are third level. The boat guide you hire for a pittance is a 6th level thief. And so it goes. Everyones a superhero, everyones a Captain Kirk. Oh! And let’s not forget what else goes with inflated townfolk levels “If Tuck is assaulted, he will activate the trap door, drink his Potion of Invisibility,” Uh huh. Forgotten Realms levels of magical fuckery going on in this one.

At one point you find a tree and kill it. Searching it you find a hollow. The read-aloud tells us “There is no oracle but there does appear to be an intact …” You see, there’s a rumor about an oracle living in a hollow tree. A rumor you may or may not hear. But the fucking read-aloud sure as fuck assumes you do. 

Book magic items. +2 daggers. +1 short swords. 

I get it. Swamp. Cursed banshee. Hillbillies, smuggles, wererats, monsters, lost treasure. It all sounds great in concept. But there’s just nothing here to support the DM in creating or providing for a dynamic play environment. Decisions made by the designers result in absurdity, like the 6th level rural folk boat guide, or the islands so close together, or generic “Fight fight fight” encounters. And you wave to wade through ALL that read-aloud. And the minimal DM text which somehow also is long and confusing in paragraph form.

This is $10 on DriveThru. There’s no preview, so you can’t even make an informed purchasing decision.


Why, yes, I am still reviewing every thing on my Wishlist that hasn’t made if off of it in the last ten years, why do you ask?

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25 Responses to Dread Swamp of the Banshee

  1. 3llense'g says:

    Oh, I hate it when there’s a quiet village in literal line-of-sight to the home of something more powerful than every villager combined. MMORPG stuff.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm. Another fake TSR era cover? Another bad, expensive, adventure?

    It’s almost as if trying desperately to make your adventure look like it would have fit in 40 years ago is sign of a lack of imagination and a grab for a buck… Seems like the weird arty stuff is at least comparatively interesting despite this place’s hatred of it.

    • Cornpop says:

      Your artpunk butthurt aside, ‘comparatively interesting’ means nothing. ‘Is it good and can I run it?’ is the question.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think this place hates it at all. Look at the best list! Or no regrets. We got arty stuff for.days!

    Also on the subject of trade dress porn! Tons of the best do that too!

    Many gates of gann cover makes me.very happy

  4. John Paquette says:

    Yeah, Many Gates of the Gann is great stuff; I’m currently running a group through it. Don’t judge an adventure by its cover.
    I bought some of the “Maximum Mayhem” adventures and I wasn’t impressed.They seem like they were written by a 13 year old. I think that’s intentional, but it makes them uninteresting to me.

  5. PrinceofNothing says:

    Man that trade dress porn had me watering at the mouth. Have you done all of Anthony Huso’s stuff yet? I suspect he might actually be able to write.

  6. Jonathan Becker says:

    Hmm…it took three people to write this. Interesting.

  7. Jacob72 says:

    Nice 99 Red Balloons reference. You should try to liven up the text of future reviews by dropping in lines from semi-obscure 1980s one hit wonders.

  8. an all-time great/appropriate Bryce-ism….

    “What do you expect from a swamp tree miles wide”…. this is gold.

  9. OSR Fundamentalist says:

    Book items run RAW > artsy-fartsy hipster garbage item

    • Anonymous says:


    • Stripe says:


      I like book items mixed with the creative and bizarre. I remember reading through the lists as a kid and wishing I could find this or that, or give them to my players as a DM.

      I agree that some or most magic items should be uniquely imaginative, but not all. “Dagger +1” and “Sword +1” should be somewhat common treasure in Basic/Expert D&D games.

      It gets to be a shit show when there’s too many wild and crazy magic items.

      • Knutz Deep says:

        I agree with many of Bryce’s review criteria but the emphasis on non-book magic items is not one of them that I embrace wholeheartedly. New magic items are good. The occasional weird/wacky/ item is also good but there’s nothing at all wrong with book standard magic items. A “Sword +1” may not be flashy but your low level fighter thinks it’s the best weapon in the world.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Can confirm Prince fucked up. I thought you were part of the Trinity!

    Bryce we listen!

    For noobs like Prince Bryce got Huso. Maybe not all of it.

    Well written but needs lots of work seems to be the consensus. Combat heavy too

    • PrinceofNothing says:

      Good energy but it lacks the specificity and gygaxian naturalism of the real thing. Two stars for a decent trolling attempt.

  11. Anon says:

    Review says « Levels 4-8 [<—- Not in the fucking product description!]» but it’s right there on the cover???

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